[This review was published in the September 1990 issue of Universitas, the national newsletter of University Professors for Academic Order.]
Propaganda: A Pluralistic Perspective
Ted J. Smith
: Praeger, 1989 New York
Reviewed by Dwight D. Murphey
It may seem at times that the intellectual world is lost in ideology and neurosis, but that is only half true. In virtually every field, solid works of scholarship are turned out by the likes of UPAO’s Ted J. Smith
III. Smith’s own chapter, for example, speaks with a clarity that is in no way befogged by the biases of left-liberal academic culture. Unflichingly, without looking over his shoulder, he analyzes three examples of recent Soviet propaganda—and of the complicity of major American media.
What I find especially fascinating is that even the academic study of propaganda has had its twists and turns based on prevailing ideology. Smith explains that the focus was once on propaganda defined as deceitful communication. But after Hitler and his propaganda chief Goebbels were defeated in World War II, the emphasis didn’t stay on deceit. The fashionable reluctance to point to Communist deceit, the prevalence of relativistic attitudes, and the desire by the Left to criticize bourgeois culture’s promotion of its own values, all caused the definition to change from “deceit” to “any promotional rhetoric.” Although Smith has collected essays from a variety of perspectives (he even tried to get one by a Soviet Marxist), he seeks in his own writing to reestablish the original focus. It’s a refreshing willingness to look at deceit, including the Communists’, eyeball to eyeball.